tv Lectures in History World War II Amphibious Vehicles CSPAN May 11, 2019 8:00pm-9:13pm EDT
innovations and the role of american factories during world war ii. he focuses on types of amphibious vehicles used in the pacific and describes the process of testing, production, and battle application. professor: welcome back. we will continue our conversation about the second world war. we will look at an aspect of the war through the lens of industrial mobilization. industrial mobilization is often understood as a key to allied victory in this war. it is often said that allies win because they out produce. many of us have heard this before and perhaps encountered it. one of the problems with that line of reasoning is that if it is simply amount of stuff that produces victory, at the
beginning of the war, the axis powers possessed more. stuff cannot about absolutely establish ultimately the trajectory of allied victory. the allies for a long time are deficient in that quantity of stuff. the other aspect of the material argument, if you will, that the allies out produce, it is oversimplified. we have no clear sense of how the stuff is built. there are historians of technology who write about particular kinds of technology. most of the discussions of war assume that technology is built. the arrival of weapon systems on scene, the aircraft that flyover, the landing craft that arrive on shore. we just assume that they are built. we have very little intricate
understanding of these processes. that would ultimately translate strategic requirements and battlefield weaponry. it's much more elaborate than we have considered. to look at an is aspect of industrial mobilization. specifically through a case study that i have investigated quite extensively in navy and marine corps archives as well as other collections. to understand how one particular ,ehicle, and amphibian tractor how that was built for the purpose of fighting and winning world war ii in the pacific. this is one particular model. truck, you see battles blazing away as troops are being conveyed to japanese held shores on iwo jima. near the end of the war in the pacific. it is my argument that this amphibian tractor, humble little box that it was, would
ultimately prove indispensable to victory in the pacific. vehicle thatular could actually deliver american troops ashore along many coral fringed islands that the japanese possessed. if you couldn't get a sure, can't fight to win. to shore,e, can't -- can't fight to win. the amtrak is the pivot around which allied victory turned in the pacific. we will consider this. to borrow from the notion of the hobbit, we will look at from the factory to the front lines. this process whereby folks in the home front, in the navy department and headquarters of the marine corps, would be working in concert with industry to build more specific materials. works andout how it translate those challenges and problems, deficiencies and
possibilities, and to revised vehicle designs, operational concepts, and ultimately there is a dialogue. of historiography, a term that we are already familiar with but to reiterate priestly -- briefly, it is the writing of history. i would characterize much of the writing about world war ii, establishing what we call a tyranny of the assembly line. always, when we see pictures of assembly lines, assume that is where everything is built. we have seen many pictures like this i'm sure. assembly lines for aircraft that are being built, heavy bombers were tanks area -- or tanks. toward presuming that everything that is important in terms of industrial mobilization happens there on the factory floor.
i want to complicate that today. the other part of this istoriographical omission that we assume that things are built. we see pictures of them, we know they were built. often we read were back as inevitable. logical,his process as necessary. we often assume that things will be built. the next model will be better than the previous. it is obvious that it would be that way. that in ourwe find case study today, there's nothing inevitable. nothing whatsoever. in other words, it is up to a variety of factors, contingent forces and what historians like to call agents. individuals involved in these processes. let's consider how and where the amtrak would be built. i've given you a handout already.
on the top side, it indicates these questions here. these are some of the questions that illuminate this process of what i find we are missing in the story of industrial mobilization. often, what we overlook are the people involved in these processes that make critical decisions. to build or not to build. when to build, what to build. as well as the organizations charged with determining such issues as where to build, what to build and how to build it. one of the big questions that starts this process, who envision the strategic requirements? such as in the war with the pacific. we all know well already that american war planners, especially in the navy and marine corps, or long anticipated war with japan. what do you need in order to accomplish your strategy? what technologies might you require? whether it be ships, transports,
landing craft, or and in fabian tractor. amphibian tractor. it depends on what their imagination and creativity is. also with the realm of the possible seems to be. another question is involved in opportunity costs. what economists call opportunity costs. is, weard a phrase as it are all familiar with the basic premise. something,se to do you forgo the opportunity to do something else. being in class today, you are not snowboarding. i can't say whether that's a good decision. in military terms, planning for world war ii and during the war itself, there are a host of decisions made. if you build this, you might not be able to build something else. we have to find out who makes those decisions of what to build and when not to.
process ofthis thestrial construction, navy calls of the prime contractor. the final assembly center. things are already built in other locations. the transmission, the radiator, the break. they are manufactured in other place by subcontractors. in case of the amphibian tractor, there would be hundreds of subcontractors for this particular vehicle. forkly, it is no different the tank or any variety of tank or aircraft. prime contractors that assemble these things together ultimately for use eventually. there's dozens if not hundreds of subcontractors building the constituent parts. relaying them, usually on rail.
before the subcontractors even build things, they need raw materials. where you get the copper, the steel and all of these essential ingredients to manufacture the brake pads or the boxes or the steel frame for the amphibian tractor? where does it come from? ultimately, this question of sourcing and supply in the process, the steps of building is a vastly elaborate thing. how much harder in an era without the conveniences of computing technology. people had to make phone calls and write letters. just by way of example, the navy's bureau of ships which was responsible for building the amphibian tractor. war,very week of the there's a folder, a dossier of more than an inch of written correspondence back and forth between the navy and its ancillary organizations.
between contractors, subcontractors, all sorts of interested parties. that is every week of the war. you can imagine this vast sea of communications required to build something that is relatively simple. a vehicle. you think it would be simple. it is being built at precisely the same time as a host of other war urgent materials and programs. they are competing for priorities also. you might imagine battleship construction nyssa to -- necessitates certain materials that the amtrak could take use of. who determines who gets what and in what priority? those are central questions we really consider. with respect to this notion of procurement, acquiring things. one of the key terms was bottlenecks. all these chokepoints at which construction could be derailed for want of a nail you could say.
if certain parts don't arrive on time, that vehicle doesn't get old. war finished. maybe you can complete 90% of it. if you don't have the other essential components because a factory was able to provide them for want of enough labor, skilled labor, or enough machine tools or enough raw materials or any of those reasons. perhaps all of them. this particular concoction might not actually roll off the assembly line and reach forces in the field. those challenges were ones that all the war services and all the warring countries would have to reconcile. some do it better than others. the united states will do it quite well, as complex as it is. part of the reason it is able to do it better is because the homeland is not being lasted to smithereens as in the case of britain or germany or japan or russia.
the image in the upper right here is just a small screenshot of correspondence from the chief of the bureau of ships. this agency challenged with ,uilding navy materials warships and such small things is this tractor. it is informing its constituent parts that ultimately, this machinery corporation is the prime contractor charged with instructor -- constructing the amphibian tractor. it is not going to deliver according to schedule. there are problems of foot. they need to resolve them. time and time again, this question of bottlenecks appears. contractors were unable to meet the voracious appetites of the armed services for various specialized equipment. another kind of question that is related to the building of a tank or an airplane or a landing craft or vehicle, who determines how it's going to be used?
which structure does it fit? what is the doctrine that animates its use? how to the services, say in the , howof a marine corps does the navy understand its use? to the relations it's going be formed in ways where you can make optimal use of this contraption? there's a host of people at work trying to resolve these questions. had you train somebody to drive a tank or an airplane or in fabian tractor -- amphibian tractor? what kind of manuals do you need? who takes the pictures of the consul wheref the the gauges are. such simple things as photographing and building operations manuals.
it's part of this process of industrial mobilization. if you don't have trained crews, they don't know how to work these things. from the minute show of such things as a manual to the greater complexity of building and mass. commit toquestions bear when we are considering industrial mobilization. problems, who resolves them and at what pace? can they be resolved? are they decisions that need to be made at the highest levels or are they made at lower levels? who is responsible? all of these questions surface in the arena of mobilization. that, let's take a big picture approach. we will consider first a series of requirements and then we will work into a series of what we call production challenges or the production puzzle. we will examine certain vignettes and deployment.
the big picture part of the puzzle is that ultimately the the u.s. navy and marine corps recognize they would have to cross the pacific ocean. the expectation as we have identified in previous classes was that the american surface fleet would engage westward and hopefully destroy the japanese navy. we call that warplane orange. and parcel to this big picture approach of crossing the pacific was something that the u.s. marine corps studied intensely. the problem of bases. basing infrastructure. had you defend them? when you expect the japanese forces are probably going to conquer than. -- them. the marine studied this problem for the early part of the 20th century, up to the teens. they really start to reorient towards amphibious assault. not simply defending your own base which you probably lost,
but fighting to get it back or conquer new territory. that process of amphibious assault is a critical one. we talked about dallas is one of these pivotal figures in the 1920's. one of the critical problems, how do you get your forces ashore? with combat power, i might add. it is not simply rolling your way onshore. you have to fight your way ashore. in the age of the machine gun. the british had already theovered in world war i problems with confronting a heavily fortified beach. in this particular case, a battle called gallipoli. the british discovered that rowboats don't work well in the age of the machine gun. the problem for the marine corps well into the 1930's, they pretty much have rowboats. realizing that the technology that they possessed would not actuallyem to
accomplish their mission. it was a glaring source of concern. i have focus less -- inset picture here of a cluster of islands. corner istom left this tiny island. this little tiny island would prove absolutely important for the testing of invidious assault technique -- amphibious assault techniques across the pacific. in anticipation of that, had you cross a coral reef at low tide? you have had boats. they are going to run afoul on the coral. the coral probably stretches 400 yards wide. bathtub orn in a
swimming pool? how slow that processes. imagine the challenge of climbing out of the landing craft onto a coral reef which is going to have some water on it. these are ocean currents. having to lumber across the coral reef, drop into the lagoon which might be in the realm of eight feet deep. drop into that with a pack and a rifle. somehow managed to hold your breath while you wait ashore. at bye getting shot machine guns, mortars and other kinds of weaponry. it's a recipe for disaster. aware of this tactical challenge, cross the coral reefs, alerting the marines to try to study this problem. it was a challenge for them because they weren't able to convince the navy that this was a problem. we will see how this works now. we can pose this question. how would the navy and marine
corps reconcile their opportunity costs and resource constraints to meet these requirements for mechanized amphibious assault? concludes, wer i talk about the washington conference and how the u.s. navy was restricted i treaty regulations and prohibitions on how the surface we could be. in the midst of that budget environment, the navy's realizing how much is evaporating out of their hands. the marine corps was approached by an industrial designer named walter christie. he built this amphibious tank on his own dime with the hope of securing war contracts. you see a marine testing it in the caribbean in the early 1920's. the marine corps would've loved to buy one. they didn't have the dollar. the navy was not inclined to spend any money whatsoever on the marine corps, especially on
an innovative, unproven box. the marines had to turn down this opportunity to build what they thought might actually provide them a means of defense as well as create firepower to row their forces ashore. they weren't building it themselves. an industrial designer on his own dime had come up with it. with the navy rather build ships like the arizona? you bet. the marine corps appropriations budgetary program was subjected to ultimately navy women's. -- whims. christie,walter another industrial designer, an innovator who is not looking to make a buck. he's already rich. his name was donald roebling. we could see him in the inset in the middle. , close toark pants on
the fellow in the light. we have a couple different designs he had built, prototypes of what he considered to be a swamp rescue vehicle. where was he living at the time? the gulf coast of florida, close to tampa. he lives in a town called clearwater. the reason he is wealthy has to do with his engineering inclinations and aptitude. his family had are deconstructed the brooklyn bridge. they were engineers, inventors, they built steel cable suspension systems. he retired to florida. in the 1930's, in the midst of the great depression, there were a series of hurricanes that displaced people and stranded them in the middle of swans. roebling can to appreciate that it was difficult for rescuers to drive a truck through sloppy terrain or get a book -- boat through the mangrove roots systems.
died thatt, people didn't necessarily need to die for want of a rescue and vivian. roebling took his own money and invested in building this contraption. earlier models in the backdrop and later models which he would cannibalize and improve, continuing designs. this vehicle is built for saving people in the everglades. saving people in lake okeechobee. it is not for military purposes. that is not his vision. it so happens that life magazine pretrade several pages of roebling's contraption. diving into the seawall of tampa bay. climbing into the swamps and around rugged campaign. the fellow who reads it is a navy admiral in san diego. admiral hadle -- been working with the marine corps for several years on amphibious operations.
he was alerted to the possibility that marines can make use of this. he passes his copy of life over twin marine corps general. says, this might be what you are looking for. the general sense of data -- sends it to the headquarters. we need to investigate this design. it could be the alternative for the vehicle we never built. life magazine opened up a new door. ultimately, at precisely the same time that life magazine would publish this expose, the imperial japanese forces were in the midst of conquering shade high -- shanghai. to thete sensitivity prospect of war in asia was inflamed at the very moment that japan is invading china and the marines understand that there might be a technical solution to this unresolved problem.
how do you cross a coral reef at low tide? , had youenge of course convince somebody to make a war machine if they hadn't made it for that purpose? the team that actually arrived at donald roebling's estate in florida discovered that he was more than happy to talk to the marine corps. he was very cordial. he didn't want to turn his machine into a war machine. rescue, this for swamp not for carrying marines ashore. he demurred. later, as war clouds continued to darken into 1938, it was obvious that war in , it had already engulfed parts of africa. it was stretching across china. roebling allowed the navy to use his design with the goal of mass-producing it. the challenge was, he built one.
he built several prototypes but he just built one. when the navy approached him and said, why is it nine feet 10 inches wide? the navy is always concerned about the dimensions of crafts and whether they can fit in the hold of cargo ships. whether they have cranes that can support the weight of a particular vehicle or craft. or whether there's an elevator big enough to put it in the sea. roebling answered that question simply. gates outside my estate are 10 feet. my garage opening is 10 feet wide. i have to drive it in there. he's serious. roebling's understanding of design was very like what we could call a silicon valley designer. building in a computer in their garage. he built the amphibian tractor in his garage. he tested it in his winning
pool. he tested it off of his beachfront estate. he doesn't even have blueprints. where did he get the parts? parts out of automotive catalogs. he contracts at the local firms. he hires a team of engineers. spends a lot of money in the great depression. with respect to this vehicle, roebling built one. , once warighted explodes in europe, after poland is conquered by nazi forces, the bureau of ships allocates money for the marine corps to acquire one vehicle. that's it. over the next year, things darken even more. the bureau of ships agree to build 200. they have no clue how to build them.
he signed the paperwork without any idea of how to make 200 in his garage. the challenge for the navy and roebling is to actually deliver on the contract. would 200e enough -- be enough? probably enough -- probably not. this was initiated to the observation of one officer to something in life magazine. was it inevitable that the marine corps would have an amphibian tractor? by no means. you could call it chance, providence. ultimately, we need to figure out this dynamic of why the navy would choose to invest in the amphibian tractor. for 20 years, they had made a point that it wanted to have something like this in the navy had proved indifferent. 1941, nazi forces control the continent of europe.
to theclearly evident navy at this point that if they are going to find their way in europe again, american forces will have to fight their way ashore. the navy comes to appreciate the need for specialized landing craft and vehicles and the needs of projecting power ashore. it's a lot more acute at this moment. it so happens that precisely this moment, the budget skyrockets. fromse appropriations go one billion to more than 6 million -- $6 billion. the navy has money to spend. it has the awareness that it needs to provide its amphibious forces the means to get ashore. how do you mass-produce something? especially when the one design that you have has been scratch built in a garage. enter a food machinery corporation. depicts their operations, the various
industrial plants and facilities. roebling had worked with fmc in the 1930's to scratch built some of these parts for his prototypes. what is fmc? food machinery with headquarters and operations in citrus groves, which places such as florida and southern california. sprayers,pesticide machines to harvest and pick fruit. roebling has a pre-existing relationship with fmc. they have a small facility in florida which is really close to clearwater. he and the navy approach fmc. a corporation, you have factories, you mass-produce things. could you build war machines? he never provided defense needs or don't a vehicle, could you do
it? to his credit, the then-president of fmc saw an opportunity to serve the nation and to serve fmc's interests as well to shareholders. paul davey said we can build this thing, we will partner with roebling. we will mass-produce the mass landing track. davies appreciated fmc has no experience in building vehicles. he has a few key people network in the industrial belt in facilities such as in lansing, michigan, but he will hire people out of the automotive industry to help develop the expertise one would need to build more machinery. -- war machinery. one of the key misconceptions about war production is even only do one of two things, this butter., guns or
in the case of fmc, it is involved in the butter industry -- it is involved in agriculture -- what is striking about the way fmc mobilized for amphibian tractor construction is it didn't stop it agricultural reduction business whatsoever. it did both, and this is how. one of its new factories that would build in lakeland, florida specifically to build amphibian tractor designs. it added to its factory to build tractors. in riverside, california, the fmc factory would actually build an entirely new factory for amphibian tractor productions on exactly the opposite side of the up to thethat ran back of the food machinery corporation food house. had alwaysrds, fmc
built its factories close to a rail line so he could simply offload equipment, them on railcars and ship them only. this time when it got its work contracts from the navy, it don't new -- it expanded its operations and was able to do both. from the federal government, it received tax breaks. they had to file what were called certificates of necessity. facilitate industrial production, where companies could minimize the cost of starting a war machines business. that is what fmc will do. with respect to this elaborate network of fmc production, the navy appreciated fmc to its best interest could never build over the vehicles it envisioned. so they found other prime contractors like the st. louis car corporation, among others.
leadas always the primary in this field of development, but there were other major manufacturers who would build amphibious tractors. of course there are hundreds of subcontractors that filled these specialized parts needs -- radiators, clutches and the like. of course a whole elaborate network of raw materials providers too. it was up to the navy, however, to ensure this system of supply and procurement actually works well. production, one of the challenges in the midst of this was -- could the navy and marine corps get what they want in the time they needed? allof the challenges for industrial operations in world war ii was providing the necessary workplaces to create the talented workforce, the
specialized workers that could do the work, to allocate the appropriate machine tools. and so finding the critical resources, human and otherwise, to actually construct specialized machines, was of the utmost importance. the challenge for the government as a whole, the u.s. government as well as every war government was to identify which people to conscript and not, which people to allow to volunteer in the army forces and not. in the case of my grandfather in the middle and his brother -- just before the war they were working on an automotive shop. they were mechanics, and they joined the marine corps. the very question their lives suggest, when they have been better served working in a fmc plant rather than being in the
marine corps? all warring governments had to make those decisions about who not to let certain. whether you worked in a creamery, in a lumber mill, there was a host of specialized civilian fields that necessitated continuing production. c's. experience of doing both suggested how the u.s. government balanced military need with ongoing domestic priorities also. will always be one of the top 10 programs in world war ii u.s. war production. needf the appreciation you to feed your people to keep the war effort functioning. historians have identified one of the reasons it seems the allies well win -- will win world war ii is because they better formulate their war
economies for endurance my minimizing the hardships civilians encounter so there is abundant resources, the challenges ultimately -- challenge is it ultimately takes a long time to do both. there is donald roebling in front of his building in tampa bay. how do you take that design and turn it into a vehicle for war? do you have the right people in place? those are the other complexities to this production puzzle. how do you know what you are building is the best thing that you could build? this particular backdrop photo is of another amphibian design. it is not a tractor, it is a wheeled amphibian designed by an new orleans shipbuilder. would becomeoat one of the mainstays of america's forces. tom hanks would storm off the beaches to defeat hitler from a
higgins boat. higgins was an industrial entrepreneur. interested as anything in patriotic and profit-based motivations. roebling is not looking to make a buck. but higgins, when approached by a marine corps officer, then a captain in the marines, he would identify in these early model amphibian tractors like the one in the picture, the suspension was problematic. they were prone to overheating. the vehicles broke down too quickly. there were a host of deficiencies with roebling's designs. he said, maybe instead of a tractor design, because there are so many moving parts in which sand can infiltrate and jam up the roller bearings --
did you build a wheeled vehicle? higgins on his own dime will build several prototypes. this photograph captures some of the trials of the higgins industry agents and members of the armed forces were investigating. the challenge for higgins at this moment, he's got a design, and by all reports the navy and marine corps name his design is superior to donald roebling's. can you switch gears? the navy decided it could not. investedit had already too much in the blueprints for industrial mobilization, mass production of roebling's amphibian tractor. this is what i would call standardizing obsolescence. you know it has problems, you will not solve all of them in
model 1.0, but you have any quantity of anything, you need to start building. that it is what fmc decided to do, build vehicles they know are deficient, but better than nothing. design, for all its promise, is never built. the reason it doesn't is because we could not make the shift in design philosophy. in the midst of building, one of the complexities is not just building final product, but how many spent parts do you need? the navy concluded for every 25 into the contractors, you -- amphibious tractors, you need spares. it wasn't just a question of final production, how many spare parts, how much training, how much investment have you paid into this industrial program?
higgins concluded, no amphibian. who in the navy makes these decisions? to introduce you to this commander. he fell into an interesting position as the supervisor of shipbuilding. we don't hear about supervisors of shipbuilding in the grand hills of naval history and world war ii, we hear tales of battles such as midway or the coral see. he was tasked to a desk job stateside where he worked for the duration of the war. his job was to be the liaison between the bureau of ships and fmc to build amphibian tractors. his job was literally to translate the strategic requirements, such as, we anticipate we need 10,000 of these vehicles in anticipation
of the next campaign season. we will march from the southwest pacific, we need a certain quantity. he would work with fmc, its corporate bosses, to adjudicate such concerns and mass-produce things. throughhim by looking the bureau of ships records and seeing his name, again and again, and was intrigued by how influential he was. i found his daughter, who provided me this photograph. who is signed by his boss, is in charge of the navy contractor program. it is a picture of a particular island. george, you may enjoy sharing with me that you most outstanding tradition toward developing the alligator
and its progeny were the most important factor on putting them on pacific islands. in other words, if it wasn't for you, we don't win. if it is not for the home front and harmony of translating's to changing requirements -- strategic requirements into production, it is up to individuals negotiating between industry and the armed forces to ensure things were built to the needs the services identified. there are a few other jobs. one is called inspector of material. these would be navy personnel assigned to factories. they would work in concert with engineers and draftsmen who are literally designing these vehicles to decide what the defects were and what they should do about them. should these be fixed now or the
next production run six or eight months from now? those were the questions the home front and industrialists had to answer. guess what? the presumption is lessons learned in the field actually made a difference in vehicle design back home. you would hope that would be the case, if troops in the field detected problems with these vehicles, or any vehicle or weapon system, that their reports would find answers by satisfactory designers that would build better models. in the case of the amphibian tractor, and i suspect it is the case with most vehicle designs, the individuals who best appreciated its weaknesses were the designers. the new their inadequacies keenly, but in the interest of mass production they had to table advances. for the moment, we will produce this line of vehicle.
designers were already anticipating the service needs. the folks in the field would say, this vehicle breaks down, and they would file detailed reports after major operations. we need more armament, more lifespan and reliability, and lo and behold the people building these things had already put those improvements into motion in a subsequent design. there is another group of institutions we could call training centers, one bill near -- built near donald roebling estate to teach officers and crew how to operate these things. it is that these training schools, kind of like drivers training where you can imagine the transition and the brakes are ruined on account of immature drivers. the training centers also are
these experimental laboratories for beating this not out of the amphibian -- beating the snot out of the amphibian tractor. the home front, training schools, as well as the factories themselves already identified practically every material problem with the interview tractor and were -- amphibian tractor and were already working toward solutions when they received requests from the field. this was a particular battle in 1943, a three-day battle. it was intense and ferocious, but it represented america's first amphibious assault in the pacific against a heavily defended japanese garrison numbering almost 5000 troops . the reason to take this island was to build a runway to weaken the next island chain called the marshalls.
it is here where the marines have a grand total of 125 of these vehicles they have scratched together. there they discovered that is not enough, or barely enough. the margin of survivability was grim here. 90 or so of these 125 vehicles were damaged or knocked out by the enemy. but they can read the first three waves of assault troops onshore. at that moment, the amphibian tractor had shifted from the minds of the marines from an ocean going truck -- they shifted it to include his particular vehicle in assault role. it worked quite well. at lowsed the coral reef tide and they fought the japanese garrison. here the lore has always been that as a result of these after
action reports from the amphibian tractor battalion, ultimately the navy would mass-produce these and deliver newer models near the fmc factory in riverside. said, we could use more firepower, could you put more armor on, we could use more tracks, hundreds more. in the campaign on the marshall islands, the marines have exactly that afforded to them. they have hundreds more amtrak's, in other words they get exactly what they requested, and they are thrilled. people listened to their complaints and uncle sam respondent. as i started to investigate that possibility, is it plausible that at the end of november 1943, that reports from the central pacific could reach washington dc and spread out to
the designers in these various change in produce a their vehicle design, make new ones and send ships back to the central pacific in three months, trained crews how to use these? the answer is no. dhe arm diversion -- arme versions of the vehicles the marines were requesting were already built, were already landing at the supply depots on the west coast of the united states. they were packaged and ready to go for the next invasion, it is just they were not ready for this one. the notion of calls and affect affect, it mu st be because we said something. these vehicles take months to
build, 18 months or more. you could not do it in a three-month interval, despite the impression. let's shift from production to issues of deployment. challenges throughout this process of designing an entirely new and innovative vehicle, could you actually make it work? who would determine if it does work in the ways you want it to work? we can see in the upper left a young marine, naval academy graduate who was assigned to test the earliest model alligator in the caribbean, off the coast of puerto rico. he is the first to validate this could float, it could work in the sea and deliver marines ashore. he and the sergeants below him tooled around and understood it could be useful, and their
reports would have an influence in the navy to mass-produce it. one of the challenges was, could this vehicle work in heavy pacific surf, like what you might see in surfing conditions off the coast of hawaii, where massive waves could be generated, slamming into coral reefs? the challenge for the marines in early 1943 in envisioning what complexities it might entail, they want to ensure this particular vehicle can withstand the battering damage of heavy waves and real coral reefs. he was pulled out of a particular job in the western pacific and reassigned to test this vehicle. -- hisporters were orders were, destroy your vehicle, see what its limits are, how survivable it is.
he writes about this in his biography and other leases. i had the opportunity to ask him, what is it like? he says, i tested it in the heavy surf. death, tossedo around in the crew compartment. he and his crew mates were black and blue with bruises, but they could validate this thing could negotiate heavy surf, smashing into coral and survive. that report never made it to the forces getting ready. they conducted their own trials in fiji, where they went through the exact same process. somewhere along the lines these reports don't make it to where they ought to go, but collectively the marine corps would validate the idea that this truck could be upgraded into an assault amphibian.
why make it an assault vehicle? because you don't know with any predictability what the tidal d epth would be. on any given day, american intelligence officers could not conclude with any definitive answer whether the tides would be sufficient for the higgins boats to cross or not. if you are stuck at the reef's edge, you will fail, and american strategy in the pacific will fall apart. validating the idea that this vehicle could be upgraded, armored, and ultimately designed to fight its way ashore is one of these individuals would establish. werech as individuals determining the operational parameters, the tactical utility and usefulness of certain
amphibian tractors, was really up to the training centers, hotels like ones in the upper right in florida, not far from donald roebling's estate. once the navy chooses to mass-produce this vehicle, the marines needed a training regimen and italian. from -- and battalion. one of the influential historians of this era was part of the initial battalion, and that would beget other battalions and crew would be farmed out to be the skeletal staff for the newly formed battalions. they transferred what they learned to these newer units. it is at least schools where they would test -- these schools where they would test these concepts. brandingf bringing --
-- and roebling still has a critical role. he will sit on the floor with blueprints to figure out ways of improving subsequent models. memory seeing roebling sitting down trying to figure out solutions with chalk on the floor. roebling took the caterpillar tractor logo and adapted it to his own with more of a floridian theme in the form of the alligator. aremately when these forces battalionshese established at places like florida, how would the navy and marine corps ensure they have the necessary units in place? properly staffed, properly equipped? it was a real challenge to
orchestrate production, in part because fmc discovered it often could not provide enough vehicles at any given time. so collectively there is an effort to shift and reallocate resources, such as to pull amtr acks from one region to another, .o combine units together there were too many losses, so they would form new battalions. leadership wanted to find the best way of maintaining combat power. one over the innovations that amphibian tractor crew and officers developed -- one was to discover it could be well used as an insult vehicle -- an assault vehicle. if you are leaving troops in, you could take them out, a
medevac to evacuate wounded marines. the challenge was if there was going to be a ship with a hospital bay waiting for you or not. in places where it marines have not firmly established these relationships, the ships moved on and they would search for a ship that wasn't there. they would work to harmonize that. another role the amphibian tractor played that was somewhat unanticipated that in muddy terrain in 1943, or in okinawa when mud prevented the use of wheeled vehicles, tracked vehicles played a vital role in disturbing and carrying supplies -- distributing and carrying supplies.
the forces responsible for defeating the japanese garrison identified the amphibian tractor as useful inland and getting to shore to begin with. the version with the tank. would be useful for riding to the beach and blasting coastal fortifications where they existed. another model we will see in a moment would provide what we call indirect fire support by functioning as a piece of artillery. that was up to the individual initiative of the commander of that unit, i think i could incline my barrel, it will function like artillery, but i have not been trained, nor has my crew, so i need to learn how to do artillery support missions. cross training was useful. certain campaigns, amphibian tractors like this -- the early
models would break down -- the crew was all trained as infantry, and they could harvest what they could use from these vehicles to augment and enhance the power of the ground forces, to withstand the assault of the japanese forces at guadalcanal. d anand and at sea an interface between, amphibian tractors proved extraordinarily useful. i would argue that this vehicle would provide what we could call a means to an end. it would permit american forces to fulfill their strategic ambition, to cross the pacific in a timely fashion to defeat the empire of japan. it allowed american forces to cross coral reefs, it allowed them to do things on items themselves and minimize losses american forces incurred. in january of 1940, two years before pearl harbor, the navy
contracted to build one of these donald roebling designs. roebling is here in the inset picture. later,y 1941, a year bureau of ships was envisioning 200, but that suggests they limit to its imagination, because shortly after, contract after contract would be signed by fmc and a whole host of other construction firms, such that more than 18,000 of these would and 1945.etween 1940 a variety of different designs and models. here is one with a short barreled artillery piece. collectively that production would suggest the diversity and richness of american industrialization. thinuild something from air, mass-produce it for foreign forces in difficult terrain.
roebling, for his compliments and his contribution, would be the recipient of an award by president truman at the end of world war ii for his indispensable contributions to victory in the pacific. subsequently, the marine corps has acknowledged him by giving him an acquisition award indifference procurement. roebling remained an icon in many ways but a minor figure as we probably -- popularly know him to be. vehicles and the stings in battlefields, but we rarely think about how they get there. their use, their organization, optimizing their battlefield effectiveness actually developed. why don't i close now and open it up to questions? we've got about 10 minutes or so.
>> what role -- this could be particular in the pacific -- what role did technological superiority play when a cam to ? e combat operations did that play a significant role? it doesn't seem to be the case pulsed as thever japanese would hope. >> that's a great question. in many ways, the amphibious forces of the united states, marine or army, would demonstrate increased proficiency throughout the war. you can say it provided a lot of lessons about how to do the job better as an amphibious assault, but the japanese recalibrate, too. the japanese would discover that if you lead your troops along the beach in concentrations, the americans are going to blast them into smithereens.
what we will see is that as american forces become correspondingly more lethal and efficient, in part because of better technology, but also in part because of better training and prowess and familiarity with how all these moving parts fit , the japaneser change their tactics, too, to move inland and dig deeper and wait for americans to come to them. it's much more like a dialogue and demonstration of absolute superiority, although, of reach athe japanese point where they are extinguished practically on all these islands. vehiclesre the armory -- how up armored were those? >> not very well. the initial 125, once it became obvious they would be used in this assault role, the marines searched for anything that could
be strapped on or attached or welded onto the front of the hole, so they had just about a , but it was armor not designed to be sort of integrated in that way, so that was the best they could do. the one with the 37 millimeter tank and other models of passenger amtrak that already had armor on them and they were much more reliable and the passengers could arrive in better array. higgins design for -- because iehicle know there was something called a duck that was used mostly in europe. was that based on the designs? directly, but they are closely interrelated. there's a host of differing you
could say industrial solutions to the problem of flotation and crossing a beach. one of these was called a duck, which was this wheeled amphibian -- looked like a boat with wheels. some of you may have the opportunity to go to san francisco and other port cities to take a ride on a duck. tourist facilities still drive ducks. the challenge with a duck and with coral reefs in particular was the idea that the reef would conjure and rip apart the wheels. the higgins vehicle was designed not to be conquered or it would keep churning along. it is used in the pacific, too, but often as a truck, if you will, rather than as an assault vehicle. it did not have the defensive capabilities that a lot of the abstracts possessed -- a lot of the amtrak's possessed.
-- maybe not easy, but what was the process like if, say, they needed to switch contractors? in world war i when cold was asked to provide weapons and they ended up for a significant period of time not producing anything so they had to find other methods, was the process still the same? how would they go about doing that if their contractor did not provide? >> this was a constant and ever-growing problem that as best as you could, some of these problems could not provide what they pledged to, what they had arranged to buy contract. the way the navy accommodated that possibility was by securing basically about half a dozen prime contractors that could essentially enlarge their production should another fall short. in truth, none of them could really change what they were doing on the cusp, so as a
whole, if someone fell behind, it just meant that month's production quota was less than ideal, and correspondingly, you got fewer in the field. >> for the case of logistics, how did they find kind of a rough number of projected ships that they might need for assault, supplies, logistics? i know kind of a new technology, new field. what were they using as their base? >> initially they did not have any firm numbers whatsoever. the expectation was an amphibian battalion structure would have 95 to 100 vehicles or best could, and the carry a good portion of the assault infantry from a particular division of the sure.
would not necessarily be able to carry it all. it was recognized that ultimately in order to carry, say, 114 of divisions or three assaults worth of infantry, that you need no less upwards ofhicles or five different battalion structures. realizing that not only do you need lots of numbers but that you need lots of replacements, too, because they will inevitably be lost. that's where suddenly in early 1943, you see contracts for more than 3000, so that number is doubled and doubled again, and as a result, that's where you 18,000 figure, out of that learning process that they are going to take lots of -- moreover, you cannot allocate all production to the field. you need a certain amount in these training roles and there are other reasons you might need them as well. there are a few allocated to the european theater, but by and
large, the whole of american production was focused in the pacific, chiefly because of that coral reef complexity. >> with the amphibious tanks and tractors going on, which ones did the marine corps prefer? >> the question of would you prefer a tank as a tank or amphibian as an amphibian, the challenge with the amphibian tractor is it is not good as a boat and it's not good as an armored vehicle. it's both. it could not have as much armor and was not configured in the same way a land vehicle could optimally be designed, nor as a boat, but the two qualities kind of blended together. so in land operations where the marines could have tanks, they would prefer tanks, and where
they do serve and fire support missions and to help the infantry ashore, they do take disproportionate casualties because they are higher than they optimally need to be and do not have quite the defensive characteristics that a tank would. the challenge in part with the tank is could you get the tank ashore? at that moment, the amphibian .ractors were leading the van >> [inaudible] they would use these ones to soften up defenses on the beach? -- we willso, though have to conclude our questions for the sake of time, but a lot of this -- these models would stay on land in part because they are not carrying troops around. they would provide that organic indirect fire support and the challenge of this particular model is in contrast to the
model, it's not gyroscopic we stabilized. as you can only imagine, bobbing, weaving in the surf, how inaccurate that might be, but it has a very powerful round , so it could destroy just about anything it encountered, especially in the form of japanese tanks. on that note, thank you very much. i will see you on thursday. >> you can watch lectures in history every weekend on american history tv. we take you inside college classrooms to learn about topics ranging from the american revolution to 9/11. that's saturday at 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 eastern. >> monday night on "the communicators" -- >> it's amazing the pushback. our closest ally is probably the
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the author of "learning war: the evolution of fighting doctrine in the u.s. navy 1898-1945." he analyzes how u.s. naval strategies and battle tactics developed during the battle of guadalcanal. he argues that these developments helped the united states eventually win the pacific war. his 45-minute talk is part of a daylong symposium on the battle of guadalcanal hosted by the national world war ii museum in new orleans. >> let me call back into session symposium on guadalcanal. i have brought you under the auspices of the museum's institute of the study of war and democracy. our next speaker i am pleased to introduce to you, trent hone is one of the leading authorities in the country on u.s. navy tactics and doctrine. he is the winner of awards from the u.s. naval war college and